All the bigger parks usually get our attention, but we did another full walk at Leona Canyon over the holidays. You ramble through a beautiful canyon, complete with “babbling brook” sound effects.
Start at the southern Canyon Oaks trail head, right past the condos. Now walk from this open area into the woods after a quarter mile or so. This is the nicest wide trail, with a slight uphill grade as the canyon envelops you. You could stop by the bench and return, for a quick 1.5 mile walk with the dog or kids.
There are other options, too. Less than a mile in, you may turn right on an unmarked trail (Artemisia) that rises several hundred feet, ending near Skyline Blvd. Or continue along and catch the signed trail (Pyrite) on the left, which meanders up the opposite canyon hillside. Both of these trails are very good uphill workouts, and I highly recommend them.
If you keep going on the main canyon trail, then you will eventually head up and up to Merritt College. The views make this out-and-back 2.7 miler worth it. You feel so removed, yet are just tucked away from the surrounding ridges and civilization.
Want company the first time? The East Bay Regional Park District has planned some special Leona Canyon events. Learn about the indigenous peoples and how they lived among the berries and willows, appreciate the local birds, or else go for a nice walk with Fido and his friends in the canyon. Here are details:
- Sunday Stroll — February 20th, from 10:00am – 12:00pm. Sara Fetterly will lead this moderate hike from Canyon Oaks trailhead to Merritt College and back. Native American plant uses are highlighted along this scenic path. This short stroll is great for families, and dogs are welcome. No advanced registration is needed. For more info, call (510) 544-3187.
- Tuesdays For The Birds — March 15th, from 7:30am – 9:30am. Enjoy bird life with guide Bethany Facendi, through Leona Canyon. All levels of birding experience welcome. Bring water, sunscreen and binoculars or scopes. No advanced registration is needed, but call (510) 544-2233 for trailhead location.
- Volunteer Day — Sunday, March 20th, from 10:00am – 2:00pm. Help showcase the self-guided trail “Local Indian Uses of Plants.” Protect and promote featured native plants by weeding and pulling non-native invasive grasses and shrubs, and selectively pruning native plants. Lunch, tools and gloves provided by leader Mike Charnofsky, and volunteers ages 10+ are welcomed at the Merritt College trailhead. Registration is required, by calling 888-327-2757 (option 2, 3) or online (program #26057).
- Birding By Ear — Sunday, March 27th, from 9:30am – 11:30am. Join Michael Charnofsky for this concert experience. Yes, it does count when you identify a bird by its song. Learn to identify bird songs in this beautiful canyon. Meet at the Canyon Oaks Dr. Staging Area. No advanced registration is needed. For more info, call (510) 544-3187.
What I like best about Leona Canyon is that it feels like an oasis, and isn’t well-known like the nearby Chabot, Joaquin Miller, Sibley, Huckleberry or Redwood Regional Parks. It’s a small park, but there are those who love it.